When I interviewed incoming LAPD Chief Charlie Beck for Frontiers In LA in November 2009, one of the first concerns, given Beck's 32-year career with the LAPD, was about whether he belonged to antigay Deputy Chief Mark Kroeker's "God Squad" which operated with impunity under Chief Daryl Gates.
Beck seemed startled by the speculation. "I go to church for weddings and funerals," he said. Later, he explained why he wanted the LAPD to sever ties to the Boy Scout's Life Explorer program: "There is no place for groups that practice that kind of discrimination in today's LAPD." Indeed, when Beck was Chief of Detectives, he fast-tracked the DNA evidence in the 2009 murder of transgender Paulina Ibarra that helped quickly identify the murder suspect who wound up pleading guilty.
Also in that meeting was Public Information Director Mary Grady, a top advisor to Chief Bratton. Grady, who was very helpful to me, is now at the center of a job discrimination case that threatens to resurrect allegations of the Religious Right's influence within the LAPD and overshadow Beck's sincere outreach to the LGBT community.
Openly gay Sergeant Ronald Crump is suing the city of LA claiming that his boss in Media Relations, Lt. John Romero, created a hostile work environment for gay and lesbian officers. His civil suit outlines a series of incidents over six months in which Crump claims he was harassed and humiliated. For instance, Crump claims that Romero said: "I was a religion major at Liberty University - Jerry Falwell would roll over in his grave if he knew I hired you." The suit notes that Fawell founded the conservative religious university - but doesn't mention that Falwell's Moral Majority helped launch the antigay movement in 1977 with Anita Bryant.
Crump claims that Romero subjected him to "nearly constant harassment on account of his sexual orientation, including introducing Crump to new co-workers as "the new Ruby [Crump's predecessor] - the only difference is that he doesn't wear heels." When Crump told Romero that he didn't appreciate being referred to as the "new Ruby," he says Romero told him to "'get over it' and chuckled as he walked away."
The lawsuit also details comments Romero allegedly made about other LAPD employees, calling one a "quirky, effeminate guy;" and of another, "She's a militant, don't ask/don't tell activist lesbian," among other similar comments.
The lawsuit also reports how in January 2009, a lesbian co-worker "remarked that Lt. Romero made the office environment stressful and that she saw Romero treating Plaintiff and others poorly." That lesbian left the Media Relations Department one month later, which was closely followed by an inquiry into the concerns about the hostile work environment from then-Assistant Chief Jim McDonnell's office. Before he left the LAPD, McDonnell had an extraordinarily good relationship with the LGBT community.
Crumb did a formal exit interview with the departing lesbian and subsequently told Romero that he should be concerned about the hostile work environment. The suit alleges that Romero responded in what Crumb perceived to be "career ending terms."
That's when Crumb complained to Grady, Romero's boss. After Romero found about it, the suit alleges that he "screamed at Plaintiff for complaining, and threatened him with making a complaint for 'rumor mongering' and stating 'Don't forget I hired you even through you're gay.'"
After that, the lawsuit says, Romero "increasingly began to treat Plaintiff with hostility, about which the suit provides examples. In April 2009, Crumb formally complained about Romero and things just got worse from there, including where Crumb alleges that Romero threatened to fire him. By late May 2009, Crumb was called into a meeting with Grady, Romero and Lt. Pape from McDonnell's office. By the end of the meeting, Crumb said he was told, "You will respect John Romero."
Crumb met with Bratton about the complaint in June 2009, then left for a month vacation, Upon his return, he was reassigned to essentially answering 911 calls at the all-civilian Communications Division and then was transferred to Skid Row.
On the stand during the civil trial, KPCC's Frank Stoltz reported that:
Grady said that Romero's 'aggressive discipline' of Crump was for cause, not for retaliation after he complained, and that she decided to transfer Crump to the Skid Row bicycle detail because the two were not getting along. Grady said that the sergeant did not lose rank or pay in the move from media relations, and that none of the department's actions occurred because he is gay.
Romero took the stand last week and testified that Crump offered up that he was gay during the interview for the Media Relations spokesperson job - which was reported by City News Service in a way suggesting the problem revolved around whether Crump felt outted on the job. However, according to a source familiar with the trial, Crump's attorney pointed out in cross-examination of Romero that what Crump actually said was that he had served as a poster-boy for the LAPD's aggressive recruitment outreach to the LGBT community - thinking that was a good credential for wanting to be an LAPD spokesperson in such a diverse city. Incidentally, before he was so terribly maligned and left the force, Deputy Chief Dave Kalish had also served as an openly gay spokesperson for the LAPD.
And now, while Crump seems to have been tossed off the upward trajectory of his career in the LAPD -Romero has been promoted to Captain.
Closing arguments are expected this week in a civil trial that should have been handled more discreetly in-house. Instead this case is costing the city in time and money as the city attorney's office puts "witnesses" on the stand to apparently besmirch Crump - about whom there appears to have been only positive reports until his encounter with Romero. But perhaps more importantly, one result of the LAPD's poor handling of this complaint may well be the loss of LGBT trust in the LAPD - just as the organization was getting a fresh start under Chief Beck.
Crossposted at LGBT POV; another version of this post was run in Frontiers in LA; img src